« Best Casual Cameras | Main | Best Film Cameras for Newbies »

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Comments

Nikon FE. Mechanically sound. Has a meter. Even has a shutter speed that works if the battery fails.

Here's a nice old camera to start with-

My pick would be Minolta SRT-101 or similar. Rock solid, simple to use, good meter, and great glass. My daughter has mine and still uses it. I bought a used one. I have multiple X-570's and agree that it's much better and cheaper than the X-700. There are lots of Nikons that qualify but are probably more on the used market.

Merry Christmas and keep up the good work.

The camera I really learned on was a Minolta SRT 101 that I borrowed from a friend while working/traveling throughout the Middle East in the early 1970's and then later on backpacking trips in the Cascades. Thousands of slides later, it rarely failed me.

Here's another view of why this camera:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfDlC4JTqd4

The film camera that really "clicked" for me was the Nikon FM2. It was small, built like a tank and had a nice buttery film advance lever. It had an accurate meter and still worked at all shutter speeds if the battery died. I sometimes regret selling mine to a college film student but I knew she would put it to much better use.

Your choice of the Minolta X-570 is solid. Canon AE-1 Program would be good, or Nikon FE/FM/FA. A stealth bargain choice is a Nikon N2000 or a Canon T70. Especially the T70 because the basic FD mount lenses can be had for a song.

My suggestion is not a single camera, but the class of cameras represented by the miniature, mainly manual, mechanical, metal (MMMMM!) SLRs such as the Pentax MX, the Nikon FM, and the Olympus OM-1. Particularly with the Nikon, the lenses you need are still useable on the latest cameras, and our erstwhile 'film virgin' has the option to go upmarket with the FM3a variant, or include autoexposure with the FE variant.

I have never been a Nikon guy, but for the price nowadays, I think you couldn’t go wrong with an F3.

Canon Canonet QL17 GIII

Ricoh GR1 or GR1v.

Pocketable. Durable. Easy to load. Nose-picking-easy to use. Easily re-sellable when the time comes (when you come to your senses).

There a host of very reasonably priced Nikon F3's out there that will most likely still outlive the buyer.

Just note that whatever you buy, no matter how pristine, they'll most likely need new light seals and mirror cushions. Even when they look good, they can turn to mush upon touch. You can also buy DIY light seal and cushion kits on ebay.

I’ve been having fun with a Nikkormat EL. It has a meter, old non-AI Nikkormat are readily available for not too much and I think it’s a joy to use. I had bought a Nikkormat FT just prior, and that felt difficult to use. I could get comfortable with the shutter speeds around the dial. But part of the appeal is that I like using those old Nikkors on my Fuji XT1. I think for a film newbie I’d go the 70s amateur rangefinder rounder. My first serious film camera was the Olympus SPn. It has a great lens, some of the romance of Leica, is easy to use, and it’s a handsome devil. Also Canonets, Fujicas, etc.

I would suggest a Pentax MESuper as it was a great camera and it has the meter issue solved, if you want to go Nikon then FM2, the reason for Nikon might be you want to use the older lens on a modern DSLR, A Conor AE1 might be another choice, all three are solid well build and would do the trick, I would suggest that the get a 28mm or 35 mm lens and a 85mm and leave it at that, nice set up and would do most of the things a camera is needed for.
I personally have a FM2 for use with a 40mm f2 Voigtlander and 105mm f1.8 Nikon lens that also get used my on D850. So it means I can indulge both digital and film whenever it is needed.

Five or six years ago, when analog camera prices were bottomed out, I got back into film by picking up a Leica R4 from KEH for something like ninety bucks.

At the time, I would have said "Pick up a Nikon FM2n for a hundred and a half," but looking at eBay makes it plain that the days of the $150 FM2n are pretty well over.

Canon AE-1 Programs are still pretty reasonable, it looks like. One of those got me into using an SLR the first time around, so I guess it could work for a beginner today. (Plus FD lenses are cheaper than Nikon glass now, since it's an orphaned mount...)

OM-1 - and don't worry about the battery, it works just fine without one ;-)

Depends completely on why the person wants to get into film.

1. Do they just want nostalgia? A Canon IVsb or any of a number of other Barnack clones will max the meter on that.

2. Do they want the look of film but not interested in the hassle? A Maxxum 7 or a Nikon F80 will be a nearly seamless transition from digital.

3. Do they want the film look and also want to play with old lenses? A Nikon FE is one of the most reliable electronic cameras ever made, and will use all NIkon lenses both pre- and post-AI. This is closest to the actual question you asked :) FM is okay too but a match-needle meter is so much nicer to use.

Or ... does it have to be an SLR? A Rollei 35 will be appropriately vintage-y, while being fairly easy to use (once you accept the concept of scale focus) and pocketable. That last point is worth a lot to a large percentage of people with film aspirations, hence the currently exorbitant cost of point and shoots.

I don't know enough different film cameras to make a general recommendation, but my daughter took a photography course a few years ago and used my old Canon FTb:

https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/BSgAAOSwUH5aagci/s-l640.jpg

(The lens in the picture is the same type I used as well.)

I learned on the FTb and used it for 20 years, give or take. It has an internal light meter, and a little ring in the viewfinder - you adjust aperture or shutter speed to make the ring line up with the meter needle:

https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-el4BSBYfnGw/Wlsqk05ppUI/AAAAAAAAPkI/Y17zpQaGuAIbKSi7kHAqXnzL_GCuUVvBwCLcBGAs/s1600/Viewfinder%2Binfo.JPG

Manual focus by means of a microprism ring at the center of the viewfinder. (I still prefer manual focus whenever the viewfinder/screen is sufficiently bright and detailed for critical focus.) Easy, smooth film leader take-up; also, easy to tell when you've rewound all of the film back onto the spool. All in all, a nice camera to learn on, IMHO.

You can pick up a used FTb with lens for less than $100, and - amazingly - batteries are still available.

Cheers!
Dan

I loved my Pentax ME Super. Wore it out in fact. Has a built-in meter but no autofocus. Aperture priority or manual. They are quite plentiful and cost less than $100 on eBay with one or more lenses. I had the SMC M 1:1.7 50mm that was a nice lens. In fact I still have it and use it on occasion with my micro 4/3 gear. Makes a nice portrait lens.

The Minoltas are a good value choice and some of the more common lenses are cheap, although the less common ones get surprisingly expensive.

I would recommend the Pentax P30t as it’s common, fairly recent and quite well featured with P, A & M modes and a DOF preview lever. The lens mount is still current-ish but you can get lots of good old lenses like the SMC 50/1.4 and add a digital body if you wish. It’s lacking in fast shutter speeds and TTL flash and the system department (no auto-winder) but that’s not really the point of a shooting film in 2019/20 anyway, is it?

Personally I like using the Contax 159MM best to use but, while the body can be cheap, the native lenses are quite pricey.

in my opinion, the x-570 is a good choice, as are several others, like nikon fg, fg20, minolta x-300, and the like. just a question of availability, and acceptance.

i recall my sister's choice, the nikon fg, because it was easy to use, lightwight, and kind of lovely looking.

another idea would be any of the fujifilm instant cameras. different approach, of course, but successful on the market. for a reason ...

cheers,
sebastian

I thought the K1000 was fun to use, but maybe I'm just weird.

So something like a Chinon CP-7m?

Cheap, plentiful. K-mount, so plenty of low cost high value lenses available. Has auto-winding, aperture priority, program mode with Pentax-A type lenses, but still manual focus.

My Nikon FE was my primary camera for about 20 years. I think it's just about the perfect film SLR.

I'd pick a Nikon FM-2. It's a great basic camera with few frills, but solid performance. And you can pick from a huge variety of F-mount used lenses.

Nikon F2, FE2, F3, FM10
Canon A1, New F1
OM 1,2,4

On the whole, an F100 is still a great option, but maybe not as fun. A Nikon F4 would be weird enough and fun, I think, and if the user doesn't want or can't manual focus, certainly a valid choice. I'm in favors of the F100 over many other brands and option not only because it's an amazing camera, still - but it uses AA batteries. Canon's love of CR2 batteries makes them a pricey option to feed.

I'd go K1000, beautifully simple. Someone gave me a box full of cameras that had been laying around a community college darkroom closet for ages. I pulled some treasures from the box, including a K1000 and a coupe Spotmatics. They are wonderful fully manual cameras, elegant in their simplicity. I'll be looking for lenses for these.

My suggestion will always be a Konica C35. I doubt many exist now but it had a great lens and was so easy to use, you just wanted to take pictures with it.
I am not sure if falls in to the category because the cost on eBay is now getting to be the same or a similar price new in 1989 or thereabouts. £180.0 or thereabouts. It was nice to hold was metal and leatherette and very little if any plastic. Simple but accurate meter, great lenses. That are now quite cheap at least for the slower ones. It is small and a great casual camera in my view. Perfect with the starndard lens even better with the f1.4. 50mm. They still look great and make you want to use it and learn from using it.
It still looks as good as it did in the advertisements for it.

Nikon FM2. And I've never even been a Nikon guy, but this is *the* film camera.

My first piece of advice would be to "ask around." You'd be surprised how many relatives, friends, and neighbors have a servicable film camera or two sitting unused in a drawer somewhere. One of my daughter's friends was gifted a Canon F1n with three FD lenses that way. I would otherwise steer "film virgins" away from specific brands or formats. The odds are that unless they can clearly define what they hope to achieve from shooting film, their adventure will more likely than not end in disappointment, not to mention wasted money.

Pentax ME Super. KEH has a body- bargain condition (equivalent to others "good")for @$53.00

Hi Mike

Happy holidays - all the best to you and your family and the rest of The Online Photographer community.

Maybe you could help me out a bit since "try analog" seems awfully open ended - as if it starts and stops at the camera. We all know it's more than that. To paraphrase Ansel Adams, the negative is the score and the print is the performance.

I'll be interested in the responses to your question since I'm now into year three of just that journey and a long way from my original intent.

What started for me with an inexpensive 4x5 Speed Graphic and spot meter (coupled with a somewhat expensive Epson scanner and 3880 printer) and the idea to adopt a develop/scan/print hybrid workflow quickly morphed to embrace 6x6 medium format (including a Yashica LM TLR) as well as a few 35mm. Also, somewhere along the line I figured I needed a darkroom and enlarger if I had any hope to really "try analog".

Currently I'm back to the hybrid model in order to get really large negatives for the UV printer I put together to follow up on salted paper printing and other alternative processes. (Ironically, that now lets me use my digital cameras to explore a somewhat modified analog experience if I want).

I realize everyone's journey is different but I'm thinking that this analog world is pretty far reaching and a bit of a rabbit hole if you're not careful.

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes to all of you for the New Year

Dave

Hmmm, I would have said Pentax K1000 because its so simple and minimalist. That was my first camera and I thought it was excellent. Wish I still had one.

But, if we are going with "old, classic" (but NOT K1000) then these would be my (additional) suggestions:
Nikon FM/FM2
Nikon FE/FE2
Nikkormat FT2 (I have one in EX+ condition. its wonderful)
Nikon F2/F3

A couple of choices that I have personal experience with and fitting the criteria of low cost and ease of use (fun):

1. Pentax MV or MV1 - relatively unknown and therefore inexpensive. Aperture priority only. Can still be repaired.

2. Konica FC-1 - also relatively unknown. Shutter priority and full manual. Can still be repaired.

Nikon FM2?

My most recent Ebay purchase was a pristine Retina IIIS for £50 including postage. I’m getting very pleasing results from it. Incidentally, I buy a lot off Ebay and am yet to have a bad experience.

Nikon 8008s.

The AF isn't good enough to count.

You can use it basically like a manual camera with a better viewfinder and user interface.

The built-in motor and autoload is nice for beginners.

Uses normal batteries.

It's dirt cheap.

Sure it doesn't have the classic 1970s style film body handling mechanics, but I actually hate all those tiny fiddly dials anyway. The one big dial on this camera is easy to find and easy to use without looking. A win.

If the point is to have the experience that We Old Ones had, either a nice working Nikon F or Leica M2, in the first case with a 105/2.5 and in the second case with any good 35/2 or 2.8. Note that neither has a light meter in their original forms. The Ricoh G3 in a shirt pocket provides reference information to calibrate the Mark One eyeball and record the day's wanderings. For a film camera that does something that sets itself off from all the digital gear, a Fuji XPan!

This will reveal my bias but I'd suggest a Nikon F3 with either a 50mm or 35mm lens from that same era. I don't know what the prices are but would guess a few hundred dollars could get you there, especially if you don't mind scratches and brassing.

It was a mature and simple camera with dependable metering that was solidly built. If the idea is to shoot film and experience analog image making for the first time, using a camera that stayed out of the way of that process seems important (to me). The F3 can do that.

My fave film camera (I owned it three times.) is the Pentax ME-Super.

Eolake

Lots of options out there. Most perfectly OK. Inexpensive.

For 35mm I have a couple of Olympus OM2s. One I paid $30 for and the other was given me. Wonderful cameras with very fine stock lenses.
Then there is one of the Nikons. Almost any one. Also dirt cheap, with good glass.

For MF the Yashicamat 124G gets ridiculous money for a camera that is very poorly built. For far fewer $ a slightly older and far better built Yashicamat 124 [non-G] delivers fabulous photos. No significant difference from the currently overpriced Rolleiflex'. I have 2 of each and prefer the Yashicas.

My favorite film camera was a Canon ftb (mass-market version of the F-1) with the FD L 35mm f2. When adjusted, the shutter mechanism rang like a tiny, high-pitched, musical bell... ting! That's how I knew the shutter was in adjustment! No mirror shock, either. Last time I looked these were around $50. Ken Rockwell has a good review: https://www.kenrockwell.com/canon/fd/ftb.htm The FD L lenses are superb, also cheap!

Out of curiosity, what makes the K1000 not fun to use? I am perhaps less brand sensitive than many film photographers, but I find shooting one metal mechanical film SLR from that era to be much the same as any other.

My personal recommendation would be out of left field, and I would go with a fixed-lens rangefinder. Something like a Yashica Electro 35, Konica C35, Minolta 7S, or Olympus "35" series.

I have always found that if I'm going to be manually focusing a camera, a rangefinder is quicker, easier, vastly more satisfying (and affirmative!) than trying to nail really critical focus with an SLR OVF, even a very good one.

The "point and shoot" rangefinders above come with very sharp, fast aperture normal lenses bolted on, and who needs anything else on a film camera?

And since there's not really much reason to deal with the hassle of film when shooting wide or long lenses in the 21st century, the argument for the interchangeable lens SLR kind of goes out the window in the first place.

Fancier variants of all the above rangefinders are of course available, but the recommendation is for something reliably easy to find on eBay (for under $100, let's say).

Canon FT. Simple. Solid. Lenses. Everytime.

I learned on my grandfather's Nikkormat FTn with 50mm F1.4. I still have it.

Back when my primary camera was an N6006, I still took the FTn to things like street fairs, because it's a tank. Perfect dangling-off-the-shoulder camera.

And it's <$100 with lens on e*ay right now.

Compacts: Olympus Trip 35, Olympus XA
SLR’s: Olympus OM2n, Nikon FE2, Canon AE-1.
All available relatively cheaply on eBay UK.

I'm absolutely positive that the mint Pentax ZX-7 I currently have listed on eBay would make a delightful first film camera for he novice.

I wouldn't be looking to the 'Bay, but to my closet. It would be an Olympus OM, as that's what I liked and used from the early '70s to digital.

For Purity of Essence, OM-1
For Auto Exposure, OM-2n
For more sophisticated exposure control, OM-4(T(i)) Best of the lot, for several reasons.


The Nikon FG was also a very nice, compact, AE camera, should one happen to have a nice MF Nikkor lens at hand.

I’m partial to the Pentax ME Super that I bought brand new in 1982 with my berry picking money at a grocery store photo counter (times have changed- the photo retail environment, child labor laws, etc.). It works fine to this day with no CLA and has been to the top of Mt Rainier, through the Grand Canyon and on more mountain bike rides, backcountry ski trips and hikes than I can remember. The viewfinder is incredible compared to any of my “good” digital cameras. The Consumer Reports article on which I based my purchase didn’t steer me wrong, that may be the best $149 I ever spent! It’s cheap on the used market and rock solid reliable (at least based on my sample size of one).

My one reservation is the lack of shutter speed dial. Pentax went to push buttons to manually select shutter speeds on the ME Super. I’ve come to find that the buttons work great in use but there’s something elemental about a real shutter speed dial that may be critical to the film experience, particularly to someone new.

I’ve also picked up used MX and LX (ILX per the thread a few weeks ago, who knew?) bodies over the years. They have the standard shutter speed dial but are a bit more finicky in real use and go through batteries faster (another difference from the digital age- I’m talking months for the MX and LX and years for the ME Super batteries).

Fascinating; I was pretty happy with my Yashicamat, back in the day. It was pretty well-behaved and easy to use, I thought, and I even got a lot of senior pictures and some campus landscapes into print with it. Oh, and at least one night of formal portraits at a college dance. (Much better than the Mamiya C220 and relatives for example.)

No contest. A Nikkormat!

I would say that an Olympus OM-2 is good. Small, smooth, gorgeous viewfinder with excellent focusing aids, auto exposure with optional manual metering, uses modern silver-cell batteries.

(I wouldn't recommend anything requiring 1.35 volt mercury cells or super-expensive Wein cells. I'm afraid that removes many excellent Konica Autoreflexes and Minolta SR-Ts from consideration, along with the Olympus OM-1.)

Another good one is the Pentax ME or ME Super, and for the same reasons as the OM-2. Second-best would be a Pentax K2 (auto) or KX (manual). Bigger & heavier than the ME's but full-featured and reliable, with bright full-info viewfinders.

Nikon FE/FM's and their descendants are very nice -- practically perfect in fact -- but therefore pricey these days. Perhaps a Nikkormat FT3 or Nikon EL2 instead. Don't bother with the Nikon EM or FG; they are actually too small and light, and suffer from mirror-vibration blur at any shutter speed below 1/90.

Finally, a Canon AE-1 or AE-1 Program (auto + manual) or AT-1 (manual only), but be sure to check for the dreaded mirror-squeak problem before you buy. Again, batteries can be found at any good drugstore. Tons of cheap Canon FD lenses available.

These cameras are abundant, reliable and pleasant to use; and can be purchased in good shape with a 50mm lens for less than a hundred bucks -- sometimes a lot less.

Cameras to avoid (given your criteria):
- earlier non-AI Nikons and Nikkormats. A casual new user is almost guaranteed to mess up the meter coupling, ruin a couple rolls of film and, like your 124G, go sour on the whole experience.

- any electronic auto Minolta from the '70s. Innovative, wonderful cameras when they work, but the cutting-edge 1st-gen electronics were prone to premature failure even back then; 40+ years later it's a total gamble. ('80s Minolta's seem to be fine.)

- Contax/Yashicas of the same era, for the same reason as the Minoltas. And the lenses are still too damned expensive. Sorry Mike, I know how you love you some Contax+Zeiss.

- any of what we used to call "third-tier Japanese SLRs": Cosina, Ricoh, Chinon, Petrie, Miranda, and their re-branded versions from Sears, K-Mart et cetera. Fragile film wind mechanisms, unreliable meters & shutters, and no good rationale now to choose one given the abundance of cheap top-tier cameras.

- anything from the Communist Bloc (Praktica, Zenit, Seagull et. al.) They have a certain hipster cachet today, but back then they were considered a junky waste of time and money. I oughta know: my high-school friends and I owned some, before they seized up irreparably and became landfill after less than 100 rolls.

Olympus XA2

Instax SQ20, SQ10, or SQ6. They are not technically film cameras, but if someone wants to try film and hasn't tried an Instax I think it would be worthwhile to try one.

I had a Canon AE1 with a 35mm f1.8 kit lens that was great to use. Later I had a Nikon FE2, also easy to use and fun. However, my favourite of the film cameras was my Russian Fed2 rangefinder with 52mm f2.0 lens that I picked up for $50. Guessing exposure settings was always challenging and fun.

(Do you think you could get Amazon Australia on your affiliates list? I buy a LOT of stuff there.)

Mike,

Since you used the adjective "casual," I would think the camera would need to have one automatic exposure mode. You are correct, a metered manual mode camera like the Pentax K1000 probably would not be "casual" to a film virgin coming from the digital world.

My suggestion to person wanting to try a film camera would be an Olympus OM2. I always thought the OM2 was great because in addition to being a very easy to use aperture priority camera, a flip of a lever turns the camera into a straight forward match needle manual camera. As I remember, most of the SLR's from other companies that featured an automatic exposure mode, were not as easy to use in the manual mode as the OM2. It is sort of like the OM2 can be a friendly "casual" companion or a good teacher for someone that decides they want to get down to the real basics of camera operation. The OM2 is a bit smaller than most other SLR's of the time, endearing itself to the "casual" designation,

An OM2 can be had pretty inexpensively these days and most of the OM mount lenses are not going to break the bank. Jeez, I hope I'm talking myself into another camera for myself.

I would suggest an SLR that can be used in full manual mode or auto mode so the "film virgin" will have a reasonable chance of getting good photos by point and shoot, or can learn the whole manual exposure thing if they want to. Something like a Pentax ME Super, Canon AE-1, or a Nikon FG would be reasonably priced with access to hundreds of lenses also reasonably priced. Another approach would be one of the 70's era fixed lens rangefinders like the Canonet G III QL 17 or the Olympus 35RC both of which have great lenses and are more of the DMD approach you have advocated. Millions of Canonets were sold so they are easy to come by though prices have risen recently.

The Pentax MX (or ME Super if you want "some auto"...) were certainly convenient and fun to use, same could be said for a Nikon FM/FE and an Olympus OM1/2, I also admired the Minolta SRT series but they are an even earlier series and I would imagine the match-needle light meters on those could be suspect by now - All being classic mechanical, metal cameras and given the shear number made are probably quite cheap... The Fuji 645 series of rangefinders would also be fun and offer the taste of medium format... The Yashica Electro 35 was also my first 35mm camera and I also have a real fondness for it, but doubt if the relatively massive and otherwise non-standard battery would still be available...

If the film virgin is young (a digital native, someone born and raised with computers and smartphones) I would recommend the Canon EOS 500n without hesitation.
It’s general design is so similar to a modern Canon DSLR that ergonomics and general shooting experience will be close enough to a modern camera he/she has likely used before.
Once the first experience was enjoyable and fun and there are a few exposed rolls, you give your friend a good old MMM camera. Remember to smile while you do it.

Nikon FG with series E 50mm f/1.8

It's what I used in the 80's, and what my 30 year-old daughter is using for her first film camera experience.

I wish my D5600 had such a viewfinder.

Definitely something with an Aperture Priority mode. People fetishize Manual mode for some weird reason, but once the novelty of being in "full control" wears off, it's good to just have some fun shooting. Pentax ME Super. Canon A-1. Minolta X-700. Nikon FE. There's tons of those.

[I agree. Aperture-priority autoexposure was always my first choice. --Mike]

Canonette G III

Canon AE-1. So simple, even Stevie Wonder can use it.

Lots of good suggestions here. Also, I rise to defend the Yashicamat, which is what I learned on, and I still think it's a good way to go: you must slow down and think about your shots with only 12 exposures. The 6x6 negs also give great print, either optically or scanned. It's probably easier to find a working and affordable 35mm though, and either an enlarger or a film scanner for 35mm is easier to find and cheaper than for 6x6. With any fully manual film camera, you must also learn the relationship between film sensitivity, shutter speed and aperture.

If the beginner wants to go the 35mm route, any camera suggested above is fine. Several of the posters also point out that a functioning film camera may be had from relatives and friends for the asking. That is a pretty low risk way to dip one's toes in the water. Personally, I think that I might try to start with a Nikon because AI and AIS lenses in good condition are widely available and will still work on modern Nikon DSLRs or even the Z series with limited functionality.

There could be several reasons for “trying” film. Rangefinders tend to the simpler point and shoot actions, while with SLRs, a new user by could expand their experience with additional lenses as well as film developing. I would not suggest medium format. Most are relatively expensive in the market, have a reversed image in the viewfinder to get used to and are relatively more difficult to reel load and develop. It depends on the frame of mind of the new user. I’d suggest maybe an Yashica, Fujica, Konica or Olympus rangefinder from the late 60’s to the middle 70’s, with probably the Konica or Yashica being the most reasonable in cost. With SLRs, I can’t see people carrying a heavy, chunky camera, so I’d suggest one from middle 70’s to middle 80’s with a Pentax bayonet mount... maybe one of the Ricoh metal/plastic XR variations. They’re still cheap and the lenses are good. Another would be the Chinons, and maybe the later Konica FT-1, a nice size with a motor built in and still a good price out there. Lots of choices out there. Fun city.

Personally, I think an old 4x5 calumet monorail is the perfect beginner camera. It really tests your commitment to the craft, but that's just me. Second vote goes to Nikon FM or FM2 as commented earlier.

Hands down the Canonet QL series Gorgeous little RF camera with a superb 40mm f1.7, 1.9 or 2.8 lens and built in metering. Built like a compact mini tank and a joy to use. Prices are all over the place on EBay but check your local camera store, Amazon and Craigslist. If you are willing to settle for a 40mm f2.8 instead of the f1.7 or 1.9 you can get one for under $100. Wonderful little camera.

We shouldn't forget 120 film rangefinders.

One of my first cameras was the Zeiss Superikonta III, a very compact (coat pocketable) folding 6x6 camera with the sharp Tessar 75mm/3.5.

With 50 or 100 ASA (now called ISO) film large prints of heavy crops were possible - making it also a good pocket zoom.

It was my favourite for many years - until the growing desire for close close-ups tempted me to get an SLR.

In its original leathercase it was very fast to bring to action, the VF was rather good and the rangefinder precise enough even in a lamp lit room. The speed and aperture dials were coupled with an EV scale and it had a built in exposure meter sensitive enough for handheld shooting (1/25s) at 400 ASA (now called ISO).

I already suggested my choice but want to dip back in again as quite a few commenters have suggested CRF cameras along Canonet / Olympus 35XX lines. These could easily have a similar effect on a real newbie to your Yashicamat.

Buying CRFs off eBay is a proper lottery. After owning, and enjoying, a few Olympus 35s, canonets and others I would say that they all end up needing some form of CLA; They often suffer from gummed up leaf shutters and the RF patch is also quite often slightly misaligned and/or a bit dim making them harder to focus.

I’m in the camp voting for the “wunderplastik” cams. A Nikon N90 8008 or 6006 would be terrific, especially which meter with AI lenses. And if they were a Canon user, an Elan II or 7 series, Rebel G or 2000 will work with a nifty 50 and they can use other (full frame of course) EF lenses on both.

Of all the apex film-era SLR's the Olympus OM2 is the most casual. Big, bright viewfinder, elegant manual and aperture-priority metering, tiny body and lenses, and shutter speeds at the lens barrel! Delish.

My second vote would be for the Olympus Pen EED. Sharp f/1.7 45mm-e lens, and you get twice as many shots on a roll of film because it's half-frame! It's zone focus though, so only after establishing some depth of field does it get casual.

The Oly 35 RC is a gem too with a rangefinder, automatic exposure and manual controls. So tiny. No metering in manual override however. Me? I think the Sunny-16 rule is the height of casual. Others? Maybe not.

When I was using these cameras, I had some sort of battery workaround, but I've forgotten what it was. Suffice it to say, with a little MacGyver-ing these cameras can still be made to work. And all three are easy and fun to shoot with.

Oops, I recommended The Canonette G III, because it was and incredibly good and easy to use camera, and assumed they would be really really cheap. Like $25 bucks
Well a quick look later at eBay many are over $200, which seems crazy.

One listing said they are so popular in Japan that they are very hard to find. So nice camera, not worth the price.
I like Gordon Lewis' Idea

For manual focus, Pentax MX. Much nicer to use than a K1000, very nice large bright finder, makes manual focus pleasant. Reliable.

If you want autofocus, Pentax ZX-5n with some kit zoom. Ergonomic and crazy lightweight. But still super easy and natural to use for manual exposure. Uses moderately pricey CR2 batteries, but they are cheap enough online. Or get the very cheap FG grip and use AA batteries. But the mirror motor gear fails -- so buy another ZX-5n for $25. (There are instructions online on how to replace the gear with a metal one from Poland.)

Any post-Ai Nikon is going to be very fine as well. Just no personal experience.

Electronic Minoltas often have failed capacitors. On the other hand, the manual focus Minolta lenses are orphans, so they're mostly very affordable.

The compact rangefinders have a raft of potential problems, from mercury batteries to oily shutters.

[I have to agree with that last. I owned a succession of those old rangefinders in the '90s and had trouble with all of them. As a final try I bought a nice clean Canonet G-III QL17, as those had the best reputation, and had a full CLA done by a specialist. The camera failed a few weeks later when I was on vacation. I know others have had better luck with them, and I could have tried again, but I threw in the towel. I still have the Canonet upstairs. --Mike]

Pentax *ist – small, light, fun to use as a point & shoot or full manual. Preferably with battery grip for AA batteries. Drawbacks: stupid name and possibly stiff upper control wheel – check before buying!

Lenses to go with it: plastic-fantastic 35/2.4, 50/1.8 and 70/2.4 Limited. All made for APSC but cover full frame.

If *ist is too expensive, any Pentax SLR from MZ or ZX series will do.

I recently replace my *ist with a Z-1P as my main film camera, but I wouldn't recommend Z-1P for beginners.

Be sure your eyesight is still good enough to focus one of these vintage film cameras. Mine is not, and unlike most digital cameras which have diopter correction built in, the cameras being discussed here do not.

[Most do not; a few might. The OM-4T does.

It's a good point though. I've tried and failed several times to find diopter lenses for old cameras. It's something that you need to look into before buying an old camera, if you know you're going to need diopter correction. --Mike]

I have an OM2, OM4, Pentax LX and Nikon FM2n. The Nikon is simple and super reliable. I can leave it for a year, pick it up, and the battery is fine. The OM’s run through batteries, the LX is maybe a little much, so I recommend the Nikon.

Yashica T4.

Haven't read all the posts... but a Nikon FM/FE will be bulletproof reliable, where many other comparable cameras will have age- or use-related problems. Any newbie isn't going to be inspired by mechanical problems... and these cameras handle far better than the truck-like, noisy Nikkormats.

If they really want to learn I would suggest an FM/FM2/FM2n, or FE/FE-2, and studio light meter (I like sekonic 398).

But for most I would say FE or FE2, that has auto aperture priority. I also think I would prefer the traditional exposure readout in FE/FE2 to the +/- in the FM/FM2 (but I don't actually have/and have not used the FE).

I also have/use Pentax: Spotmatic, K1000, and MZ-S; however, the FM/FM2 is perhaps the most reliable camera--from my experience and what I have heard.

Olympus OM system, particularly the OM-2n. I've owned lots of cameras over the years, all formats from 127 to 8 x 10, Baby Brownie to Wisner view cameras, but my favorite 35 mm was the OM-2n, which I preferred even to the Leica M6. It's compact, lightweight, and easy to use. A good choice for a film virgin.

If you're talking about someone under the age of 40, then an AF camera is the only way to go. I'm familiar with Nikons, so something like a N65 or N75 with a 28-80 kit lens. A clean copy will put you back between $50-$75, maybe less. Going the all-manual route is primarily an exercise in misty-eyed nostalgia for those of us (myself included) who learned on all-manual SLRs, in my case, a Topcon Unirex with a 50mm F2 kit lens, in the late 1960s. Newbie film shooters could care less about shooting film 40 years ago. The just want to make photos.

I agree with Geoff Wittig and despite the “no contest” Nikkormat suggested by another reader, which was my first proper camera, the one to get is the Canon T90. Together with a 50mm f/1.4.

Nikon FM2 plus 45mm pancake lens.

As a teenager i bought a used Pentax ME Super with a 50mm F1.7 lens and must have used it for 15 years. It never failed me. It had just enough automation to make me happy.

A Pentax 6x7, of course! When equipped with the metered prism finder, it's basically like a Spotmatic or any other SLR with TTL metering, so it's easy to use. But the best part is that the negative measures 56mm x 70 mm, much bigger than any digital sensor, even on a medium format costing twenty times more than the Pentax 6x7. As they used to say: "There is no replacement for displacement"!

Cheers!

Abbazz

Of all my film cameras, the one I keep coming back to is without a doubt the Nikon F6. Handles very well, can use all my old lenses as well as the new, superb metering and great AF. Still a bit expensive, I got mine from epay for a pittance from a student who moved to digital.

+ 1 on Nikon FM/FM2. I still enjoy my first FM, purchased new in ‘82. It’s easy to engage full, manual mode when such bright over/under led’s are so readable in the viewfinder. FE/FE2 make a fine choice as well.

Now, if only a casual, new film shooter could only find a place to drop off some film...

Prepare to replace foam light seals and mirror bumpers. After time they tend to turn gooey.

More important questions are, where is the nearest repair shop for these ancient cameras and lenses, and where is a working darkroom.
There is no inexpensive way to experience film photography; those days are long past. To recommend a camera and lens that’s been sitting with no maintenance for 30 years or more, is a cruel joke on the younger generation.
Sorry for the rant I’m getting to an age where all I see is boomer-stalgia.

Regarding diopter eyepieces...

There are viable options for Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Olympus OM.

Canon and Nikon diopter eyepieces are still available new.

Canon diopter 'E' series eyepieces, e.g.:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/12389-REG/Canon_2846A001_3_Diopter_E.html

They fit all non-pro Canons from the 1960s-era FT's to about mid-1990s.

Better yet, these also fit Pentax SP screw mount cameras and Pentax K cameras perfectly, as well as Contax and Yashicas with rectangular viewfinder windows.

Nikon DK-20 series rectangular eyepieces, e.g.:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/37342-REG/Nikon_2946_3_Diopter_for_Rectangular_Style.html

These fit any Nikon with a rectangular viewfinder window and also fit (tightly) on Pentax 'M' series cameras, and Olympus OM cameras. You have to fiddle a bit with the OM, because when seated all the way down, the bottom of the eyepiece frame sits about 1mm below the top of the film door, preventing it from opening. Just nudge it up a tad, and you're jake. I suppose you could mill the bottom off with a Dremel until it fits perfectly, but this is supposed to be casual, right?

I agree with John Cornelius regarding the Nikon FM2. Great film camera. I use it still. Also would add the Nikon FA with it's outstanding meter - the first of it's class and still the benchmark of today's metering systems. I used it professionally though retired now but still carry it around occasionally. Lens? Any Ais Nikkor prime.

Nikon F80/N80 was probably the best of the last generation of very small, lightweight but competent consumer Nikons before digital took over. Use it with two or three clean AF-D primes for a small but very usable system: the tiny but very good f/1.8 50, the f/2.8 24 and/or the slightly bigger but excellent f/1.8 85 would make a great starting point. Another AF-D lens option is the f/2 35, for which I've seen mixed reviews - but my copy was outstanding.

Mike
I shot Contact, Yashica, Minolta and Pentax in my film days. I still have a small cupboard full of the old bodies and they are still functional. The camera I always gravitate back to is my lovely Pentax LX. IMHO it is one of the finest mechanical 35mm cameras every made and it was a system camera to boot. I always loved the smaller size and interestingly my Sony A7Riii and A7iii are roughly the same size and weight as the LX.
I will take it out load a roll of film, shoot my 24 exposures and fondly remember my film days and wait for the negs to return. It goes back in the cupboard and I go about my daily shooting with my mini-computer Sonys with much the same joy as shooting the LX.

I remember that as a teenager I was convinced I could write poetry on my Dad’s portable Olivetti, which he had gladly abandoned for a Selectric. I will cantankerously suggest that none of us can give appropriate advice because what these “kids” are shopping for is not an artistic tool, but to participate in a fad. If they want to make pictures, then a digital camera or phone with, perhaps, Snapseed, is already in their hands. The best advice would be: don’t buy anything- just make pictures with whatever you have now!

Olympus XA or go old school with an Argus C3.

As I scrolled my way through all the comments, it seemed the common denominator for the "film virgin" was 35mm. That is until Abbazz's 6x7 comment! For I was about to say something similar (but smaller?) 4.5x6.

I'm a "returning" virgin, old enough to have shot with a 500C for a decade or so with 5,000 exposures under my belt. It was expensive for me or I would have shot a lot more. Now I have a "gift" mint Pentax 645N and, except for 120 film loading issues, is as simple a camera to use as any 35mm. In fact, I'm stupefied as to how easy it is to use. Note I said "use" as opposed to take "acceptable" pictures. Film has its "demands" that must be appreciated through trial and error.

Film produces other "hurts" too, both in pocket book and in patience. Where I live, there is no longer any film processing I can walk or drive to. So there is the cost of mailing & return shipping. Plus the wait - ah, this is where patience is so desperately needed. And then, if using color neg film, there must be a scanning phase and follow-up corrections on that.

In my case I made the mistake of using terribly out of date film that was also gifted to me. It did satisfy the job of checking camera function & operation, focus accuracy and lens quality. But the 400 film had greatly increased grain and color balance issues. I now have a pack of fresh film. So my "Film Virgin", part II, continues...

Nikon F3. This is the only camera that I regret selling. I have large hands and the F3 just fit so well. And the film advance lever - so amazingly smooth. I was lured away by the F100, which I thought, at the time, would be all the camera I would ever need.

I appreciate the Pentax ME and Olympus OM recs, very fine user-friendly cameras indeed. But I think an argument could be made for a fixed-lens rangefinder instead.

There are so many fine fixed-lens rangefinders from the 50s and early 60s, from Konica, Minolta, Petri, Yashica, Voigtlander, and Zeiss Ikon. I think these are especially good for film newbies who are relative photography newbies. But even if not, the more deliberate and thoughtful approach of film photography is reinforced by working with a single focal length, and I find rangefinders much easier to focus than SLRs so that point of frustration for those used to auto-focus might be smoothed over with a rangefinder.

The comments to this entry are closed.